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A Varactor-tunable Filter with Constant Bandwidth and Loss Compensation | April 6, 2...

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April 2007 Issue: Technical Feature

A Varactor-tunable Filter with Constant Bandwidth and Loss


Compensation
This article presents the basic concept and realization of a bandpass varactor-tunable filter with
constant bandwidth and loss compensation. The filter components are based on step-impedance planar
resonators, while the equalizing circuits of L- and T-types are lumped capacitances. The integration of
the filter passive parts with a gain block is implemented to compensate for the insertion losses.
Examples of practical realizations of two- and four-pole varactor-tunable filters in the 1.1 to 1.5 GHz
frequency range are reported.
by B. Kapilevich

From: Vol. 50 l No. 4 | April 2007 | Pg.106-114

Varactor-tunable filters attract the attention of microwave specialists due to a number of advantages
that can improve the overall performance of communications and radar receivers, as well as measuring
equipment. One of the drawbacks of such filters is a considerable variation in bandwidth (BW) and
insertion losses (IL) within the tuning range. The problem can be solved by the proper design of
equalizing circuits, providing stabilization of these parameters. This article describes the basic concept
and realization of such an approach, when the filter components are using step-impedance resonators
matched by L- and T-types of equalizing elements. Since implementing additional equalizers leads to
increased insertion losses, a gain block, such as an LNA, is integrated with the passive filtering part to
compensate for the loss.

Basic Design Concept

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Fig. 1 Tunable bandpass filter configuration with external (MCext) and internal (MCint) equalizers and loss compensation.

A tunable filter with loss compensation can be constructed by cascading passive tunable filters (or
tunable resonators), an RF gain block and external/internal equalizers, as shown in Figure 1. Here, the
filtering parts are responsible for creating the needed frequency response, while the gain block
compensates for the insertion losses. If the filters (resonators) are tunable (mechanically or electrically)
their input/output impedance variations may be considerable, leading to variations of IL and BW
within the tuning range. To avoid such an undesirable phenomenon, external and internal equalizing
circuits must be added to improve the overall performance. The practical realization of a tunable filter
with constant bandwidth and loss compensation (stabilization) requires performing the following basic
steps:
The design of tunable resonators from which the tunable filter is assembled. In this article, stepimpedance varactor-tunable resonators will be employed to realize such filtering elements;
The choice of a configuration of coupling (equalizing) elements providing stabilization of the
bandwidth within a specified tuning range. If the filter consists of several resonators, both external and
internal equalizers must be determined to provide the best stabilizing effect;

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Fig. 2 Schematics of tunable SIR with the varactor V in series and parallel.

The choice of the gain block and the design of equalizing elements to minimize the IL variation
within the tuning range;
Integrating all the components into a single assembly, in order to reach the goal: a bandpass varactortunable filter with constant IL and BW and loss compensation.

Step-impedance Varactor-tunable Resonators


Tunable resonators and filters can be realized through a number of methods.15 However, a stepimpedance resonator (SIR) is an excellent candidate for creating microwave tunable filters due to some
advantages:6
Easy fabrication using planar technology;
Reasonable manufacturing tolerances;
Easy integration with varactors and other lumped or distributed components;

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Fig. 3 Varactor-tunable SIR with capacitively coupled input/output ports.

Simple biasing circuitry;


Wide-range tuning ability (up to 50 percent) with commercially available varactors.
The symmetrical configuration of the SIR, shown in Figure 2, is considered below. It consists of the
two lines with different impedances, Z1 and Z2 and electrical lengths 1 and 2, respectively. The
varactor diode, used as a tuning element, is placed in the center of the resonator. A more detailed
analysis of these configurations6 showed that the frequency tuning range and mode separation depend
on the parameter = 1/(1 + 2) as well as the type of coupling element at the input/output ports
capacitive or inductive.

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Fig. 4 Simulated frequency response of the varactor-tunable SIR.

The best results are obtained for the parameter = 0.7 to 0.8, assuming Z1 = 20 and Z2 = 80 . The
SIR with a series varactor demonstrates a higher separation between the principal and nearest higher
mode, while its counterpart, with a parallel varactor, has better tunability. Since both SIRs have a
symmetry plane with respect to the varactor, only odd (or even) modes can be tuned while the others
are fixed, depending on the position of the varactor-parallel or series. This effect reduces the frequency
separation of the resonant modes. However, if the cut-off frequency of the gain block is chosen near
the second harmonic, this parameter can be improved in principle. Consider, as an illustration, the
varactor-tunable SIR with capacitive input/output couplings shown in Figure 3. The varactor (capacitor
CV1 with Q = 100 at 1 GHz) is connected in series and its capacitance varies in the range 0.75 to 2.25
pF, depending on the applied bias voltage. The biasing circuitry is not shown for simplicity.

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Table 1

The SIR is assumed to be fabricated on a Duroid RO-3006 substrate: r = 6.15, tan = 0.001, thickness
H = 1.28 mm and a conductor thickness T = 0.035 mm. For these parameters, Z1 = 19.9 , Z2 = 80 ,
1 = 60 and 2 = 24.3, resulting in the parameter = 0.71. The other schematic elements are indicated
in the figure, assuming that the capacitors Q = 100. The IL was simulated using the Ansoft Designer

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SV-2.28 circuit simulator for two capacitances of the varactor CV1 = 0.75 and 2.25 pF (see Figure 4).
The other characteristics of this tunable resonator are given in Table 1. It is clear that the variations of
bandwidth and insertion loss are not acceptable and need the stabilization discussed below.

Stabilization of BW and IL
When it is necessary to stabilize BW and IL within a tuning range, the following factors should be
taken into account:

Fig. 5 Tunable resonator with L-type equalizers at the input and output ports.

Frequency dispersion of the constitutive characteristics of the substrate, namely r and tan;
Frequency dispersion of the parameters of both lumped and distributed elements of the filter,
responsible for its frequency performance;
Frequency behavior of the coupling coefficients of the input/output and inter-resonator coupling
elements.
The roles of these factors and their real contributions in degrading the filter performance depend on the
operating frequency. However, in many practical situations, the coupling elements are the most
essential factors leading to variations of BW and IL. A variety of equalizing circuits can be employed
to stabilize BW, but only simple capacitive L and T configurations are considered, which can be easily
integrated with planar technology.
Single-tunable Resonator

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Fig. 6 Simulated frequency response of the varactor-tunable SIR with input and output equalizers.

A single-tunable resonator with L-type equalizing circuits at the input/output ports is shown in Figure
5. Assuming that the transmission matrix ABCD of a tunable resonator |Tr| is known, the transmission
matrix of the tunable resonator with equalizers |Tre| can be written as

where |Tein| and |Teout| are the transmission matrices of the input and output equalizers consisting of
reactances Z1L and Z2L

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Table 2

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After multiplying the matrices in Equation 1, the elements of |Tre| are determined as

where Ar, Br, Cr and Dr are elements of the transmission matrix of the tunable resonator.6 Assuming a
symmetry with respect of the input and output ports results in Ar = Dr; q = Z1L/Z2L. By transforming the
ABCD matrix into a scattering matrix,7 with a system impedance Z0, S21 can be written as

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Fig. 7 Tunable two-pole filter with L-type equalizers at the input/output ports and an inter-resonator T-type equalizer.

or

where t = 1 + q. The insertion loss expression, IL = 20 log|S21|, can now be used for optimizing the
tunable filters frequency response within a specified tuning range. The equalizing reactances Z1L and
Z2L are considered now as independent variables satisfying the two criteria:

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Fig. 8 Schematic of a tunable two-pole filter with L- and T-type equalizers.

a) minimum variation of insertion loss;


b) minimum variation of bandwidth.
To simplify the minimization procedure to reach the goal, the capacitive elements, Z1L = 1/j2fC1L and
Z2L = 1/j2fC2L are tried, so that the following error function ER can be introduced

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Fig. 9 Simulated frequency response of the two-pole varactor-tunable SIR filter.

where t1 and t2 are weighting coefficients (t1 + t2 = 1) and V1 and V2 are the varactor biasing voltages
corresponding to the specified tuning range of the resonator. A search for a minimum of the error
function (the details are omitted due to space limitation) results in the value of the equalizing capacitors
of CIL 2.2pF and C2L 1pF. The simulated frequency responses obtained for these equalizers are
shown in Figure 6, with the same varactors capacitors values as before.
A comparison of both responses demonstrates that the stabilizations of IL and BW are successful,
namely the BW variation is reduced by more than three times and the IL variation is reduced by
approximately five times. Table 2 summarizes the results of the above optimization.

Coupled-tunable Resonators

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Fig. 10 Four-pole tunable filter configuration with L- and T-type equalizers, varactor-tunable SIRs (R) and gain block (G).

Coupled-tunable resonators, with a T-type capacitive equalizing circuit as an inter-coupling element,


are shown in Figure 7. Assuming that the transmission matrix ABCD of a single-tunable resonator |Tr|
is known, the transmission matrix of the coupled-tunable resonator with external and internal
equalizers |Tre| can be written using the same approach as described above for the single-tunable
resonator. However, the error function must now be modified to include the parameters of the intercoupling elements of the T-equalizer, C1T and C2T. It can be written as

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Fig. 11 The two-pole tunable filter.

By optimizing the error function, the values of the equalizing capacitors have been determined to be

C1T = 3 pF, C2T = 1.4 pF, C1L = 3 pF and C2L = 1.7 pF

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Fig. 12 Measured insertion loss of the two-pole SIR filter.

The schematic of the equalized two-pole filter is shown in Figure 8 and its simulated frequency
responses are shown in Figure 9 for CV1 and CV2 varying in the range 0.75 to 2.25 pF. The BW varies
from 18 to 22 MHz and the variation of IL is 6 to 7 dB, within the tuning range 1.08 to 1.53 GHz.
However, this level of insertion loss is unacceptable for many applications. To compensate for the
insertion losses, a gain block is added between the two-pole tunable filters, as shown in Figure 10. It
should be pointed out that implementing the gain block may require a correction of its gain slope
within the specified tuning range in order to obtain a flatter IL.

Fabrication and Testing


In order to verify the suggested concept and the results of the nonlinear optimization of the error
functions (Equations 9 and 10), varactor-tunable filters were fabricated using planar microstrips on
Duroid RO-3006 substrates, SMA connectors and the step-impedance topology previously described.
Abrupt junction tuning varactors SMV1405 from Skyworks Solutions Inc. were employed with a
biasing circuit providing 0 to 15 V.

Fig. 13 The four-pole varactor-tunable SIR filter with its controller-driver.

A photograph of the two-pole tunable filter is shown in Figure 11. The measured IL of this filter is
shown in Figure 12. Its tuning range is from 1.0 to 1.4 GHz, its 3 dB BW = 60 5 MHz and its IL = 3.5
to 5.0 dB. A four-pole tunable filter has been assembled, using two identical two-pole tunable filters,
with a gain block between them. The Mini-Circuits LNA-ZFL1000LN with a gain of approximately 20
dB was integrated within these filters for loss compensation. A photograph of the whole assembly is
shown in Figure 13. A special controller-driver has been designed to distribute the biasing voltages

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between the four varactors from a single DC power supply. Figure 14 shows the measured IL for
different biasing voltages. Table 3 summaries the performance of the fabricated four-pole tunable filter.

Conclusion
Varactor-tunable bandpass filters based on SIRs have been presented in this article.

Fig. 14 Measured insertion loss of the four-pole tunable SIR filter with a gain block compensation.

The major limiting factors such as variation of BW and IL were overcome by using L- and T-types of
equalizers. Almost constant BW and IL over the 40 percent tuning range have been achieved with
varactor diodes available in the market today.
The filters are easy to fabricate using planar microstrip technology suitable for mass-production. n

Acknowledgments
The author would like to thank D. Vogel and M. Berger from EYAL Microwave (Israel) for supporting
this work and helping to fabricate the varactor-tunable filters, and A. Shulsinger for designing the
controller-driver used in the laboratory tests of these filters.

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Table 3

References
1.

I.C. Hunter and J.D. Rhodes, Electrically Tunable Microwave Bandpass Filters, IEEE
Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, Vol. 30, No. 9, September 1982, pp. 1354
1360.

2.

R.M. Kurzrok, Tunable Combline Filter Using 60 Degree Resonators, Applied Microwave &
Wireless, Vol. 12, November 2000, pp. 98100.

3.

A.R. Brown and G.M. Rebeiz, A Varactor-tuned RF Filter, IEEE Transactions on Microwave
Theory and Techniques, Vol. 48, No. 7, July 2000, pp. 11571160.

4.

L.G. Maloratsky, Assemble a Tunable L-band Preselector, Microwaves & RF, September
2003.

5.

B.W. Kim and S.W. Yun, Varactor-tuned Combline Bandpass Filter Using Step-impedance
Microstrip Lines, IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, Vol. 52, No. 4,
April 2004, pp. 12791282.

6.

B. Kapilevich and R. Lukjanetz, Modeling Varactor-tunable Microstrip Resonators for


Wireless Applications, Applied Microwave & Wireless, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 1998, pp.
3244.

7.

D.M. Pozar, Microwave Engineering, John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2005.

8.

Ansoft Designer SV-2.2, www.ansoft.com.

B. Kapilevich received his MS degree in radio-physics from Tomsk State University,


Russia, in 1961, his PhD degree in microwaves from Novosibirsk Technical
University, Russia, in 1969, and his Dr. Sc.Tech. degree in microwaves/antennas from
Moscow Power University, Russia. From 1988 to 2001, he was a professor and head
of the applied electromagnetics department of the Novosibirsk State University of
Telecommunications, Russia. Since 2002, he has been a professor in the department
of electrical and electronics engineering of The College of J&S, Israel, and head of the microwavemm-wave group of the Israeli Center for Radiation Sources and Applications. His research interests
include microwave and mm-wave devices, measurements and characterization of materials at high
frequencies.
Copyright 2006 Microwave Journal & Horizon House Publications.
All rights reserved.

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